Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Years Message for 2014

There is something about this time of the year that, culturally, gives us pause for reflection on the year(s) past.  For most, we make resolutions about how we will live our lives going forward – what "new" decisions we will make and what "new" actions we will take – in the New Year.  As 2013 draws to a close, most in our culture participate in this ritual.

Ironically, studies show that the majority of people, by week 8 of the New Year, have given up in their efforts to lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, manage money, reduce debt, etc.  Some have repeated this process so often without success that they enter it expecting to fail - or, even worse, have stopped trying to improve themselves altogether…

In my role as a teacher at the Midwest Academy, I sometimes humbly assist in mentoring students with changes they wish to make in various areas of their lives that are separate from the training floor.  However, the lessons from training always become force multipliers in their personal success.  As such, I often use the analogy of performing a throwing technique when solicited for guidance: When teaching classes on nage (“throws”), beginning level students tend to see the initial-contact between tori (the one that performs the “technique”) and uke (the one that receives the “technique”), and then see the end-contact point when the throw is completed.  What transpires in between the 'initial-contact' and 'end-contact' is what requires study, training, and practice.  It is elusive to their eyes primarily because all of the facets of success are not yet understood by their mind – as a result, beginners tend to “impose” their “will” through the process of doing “too much”.  Too much strength.  Too much movement. Too much of effort.  At times they may be successful in producing the desired outcome (the throw) through the incorrect process (too much strength, movement, effort, etc), but it is, ultimately, the proverbial attempt to “put a square peg into a round hole” – it is inefficient and therefore unsustainable

Since we have had so much success using this analogy to mentor ourselves and others, and since it is the traditional time of the year when so many people make resolutions, we are sharing our thoughts here in hopes of facilitating someone's future success.  The concept of tsukuri is particular to martial arts generally, and those that include throws within their curriculum specifically.  The concept includes the creation of space/spatial-distance which your training partner/opponent is forced to fill with their movement as a consequence of the limitations of human kinesiology and movement laws.  Since tsukuri is purposefully created, the filling of that space provides a predictable opportunity to gain an advantage through synergy; an opportunity that tori can exploit.  We say that this opportunity has synergy since it is the result of the combined movements of tori and uki in contrast to forces working antagonistically.  Tsukuri allows for the technique to be both effective and efficient – it becomes a sustainable skill in that, when correctly performed, works all the time and every time in a repeatable and predictable manner.

One of the benefits of long term martial arts training is that concepts such as tsukuri become intuitive to the practitioner.  Skilled exponents of the arts, without being conscious of it, extrapolate concepts such as tsukuri into all aspects of their “regular life”.  Oftentimes these internalized concepts influence their decision making process in ways that are difficult for them to articulate to the uninitiated, but nonetheless contribute to the soundness and success of their decisions and actions.  For them effectiveness must be married with efficiency - and the result is a sustainable and repeatable solution or process.

Returning again to thoughts of the New Year, the staff at the Midwest Academy offers this discussion from the perspective of our own life, training, and teaching experiences.  Our staff and students are encouraged to continually seek out opportunities for personal growth and to make quality of life changes that are good for themselves, good for others, and serve the greater good. In order to operate at that level, each of us is required to do the following: look for tsukuri – focus on what you will gain by the new decisions and actions such that the “space” for the old decisions and actions is removed.  If your resolution requires an investment of time, look at the totality of your time to determine where you can create efficiencies in order to create tsukuri – a space of time – for you to invest into your new decisions and actions.  Focus on how the old decisions and actions are holding you back and how the new decisions and actions will empower you - those dual focus points will go a long way to creating both synergy and personal momentum. 

Finally remember that success is predicated on recovering from and learning from numerous previous failures – every time we perform a repetition of a given technique, there is something we can learn from it that will help us in the next repetition.  As long as we keep working at it with an eye towards both efficiency and effectiveness, we will continue to improve in a way that is sustainable.  The advent of the New Year is a great reason to make new decisions and take new actions, however, if you are not immediately successful, get right back at it; do not wait for the next New Year, next month, next week, next day, or even next minute! If you make that alone part of your core values, you cannot fail.  It is what makes great teachers. It makes great technicians. It creates good health.  It creates financial abundance. It is the cornerstone of an approach that improves the total quality of one’s life.

“Some who has mastered an art reveals it in their every action.” –Hagakure –

Happy New Year! May you be unstoppable in 2014!

- The Academy Staff -  

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014: "Next Steps" Firearms Training at the Midwest Academy

2013 Midwest Academy Firearms Program in Review

In 2013, the Academy began teaching its CSAT (Combat Shooting & Tactics) based firearms program to qualified civilians.  CSAT is a system developed by retired Army Special Operations Force/DELTA MSG Paul Howe who served as a team leader and trainer in the Army’s most elite units; Paul is now heads CSAT, his own training company.  CSAT can be researched here.  For over a decade, David Hakim, a law enforcement Special Operations Team Leader and Trainer to multiple teams and also the Academy’s Director, has been teaching this system to Law Enforcement Special Operations Teams. 

The Academy’s firearms training exceeded student's expectations by emphasizing the fundamentals of shooting (pistol, rifle, or both) and applying these fundamentals tactically.  The student roster was diverse – men and women, some of whom had little experience to current and veteran law enforcement and military special operations personnel.  A number of students repeated the course for the experience and drill repetitions.

In Illinois, as we enter 2014, the state’s Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) program takes its first steps forward.  The Academy is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the responsible armed citizen.  That said we have opted to stay out of the CCW training environment for the following primary reason:

Integrity – all of the programs at the Academy are taught by instructors who have high levels of personal and professional integrity combined with skills that are rooted both in extensive experience and training.  We have chosen not to lower our standards to that of the state's qualification: of the 16 hours of CCW training required by the state, the actual skill set of “shooting” consists of 30 rounds fired of which only 21 have to be “hits”.  Since the shooting portion is un-timed, if it even took as much as 1 minute to fire each round, the 30 minute range portion would still only be 3.125% of the total training hours. The accuracy required under un-timed, non-stressful shooting is only 70% to quality. The remainder of the state mandated hours includes instruction on topics such as liability, use of force, transportation of firearms in “gun free zone”, and the like topics. 

As the Director of the Academy’s Firearms Program, while I do have an experience base that includes roots as a military combat veteran and a veteran law enforcement special operations team leader; while my daily experience includes carrying a weapon everyday for approximately two decades, it is outside my experience base to opine on the ambiguities and statutory contradictions contained within the current Illinois Public Act 098-0063 (Conceal Carry Statute).  Furthermore it is not in the long term interest of the Academy's students to train to the sub-par standard of the state's program; we believe without additional training and dedicated practice, this standard will be counterproductive in the gravest extreme (see our previous article discussing High Utility Combatives).

We have, however, chosen to remain in our area of expertise – in this case the tactical application of firearms – which we know at a deeper level, and teach, using a superior-results-oriented method, than any other locally available teaching group (particularly those groups attempting to be all things to all people). By continuing to focus on developing the optimal skill sets for our students, we believe that we can address the utility gaps inherent in the state's training standards as well as those created by opportunistic instructors that view the CCW training as another "money grabbing" opportunity.

The Academy encourages citizens of Illinois to seek out and obtain their CCW certification/license, however, cautions to be wary of instructors who stake their claims solely on NRA certifications, reserve/auxiliary law enforcement credentials (even many active law enforcement officers elect not to carry a weapon off duty and, thereby bring into question the integrity of their “experience” on the matter), credentials that state that they train law enforcement and/or military personnel, and anyone that politicizes self-defense training related to CCW (enough said on that sub-point).  We offer the following article as a guideline for finding an instructor: Finding Qualified Instructors

2014 Midwest Academy Firearms Program Preview

In 2014, the Academy will continue to offer our CSAT TPO (Tactical Pistol Operator - Video Drill Demo) and TRO (Tactical Rifle Operator) courses determined by logistics, but will also introduce a tactical firearms program that meets bi-monthly at the Academy and is designed to be a “next steps” program.  It is the “next step” to take after qualifying for a CCW license and, in the Academy’s tradition, solicits the serious student of the firearm as opposed to “wanna-be’s with a gun license”.  The real world experience that Academy instructors’ possess continually hones our curriculum and is without peer in the region.  However when combined with the bi-monthly format of the training - training which includes quality repetition, in-depth tactical study, and regular high-frequency practice sessions - produces unparalleled tactical competency.

Some of the topics covered include: the best carry methods for a CCW lifestyle, the most efficient and effective methods for presenting and employing a firearm, weapon ready postures, tactical scanning methods, tactical decision making, movement with a weapon, the effective use of cover and concealment, tactical geometric angles, immediate “tactical casualty care” (for yourself or another), identification to law enforcement, and case study analysis on significant shooting incidents.  All of the Academy’s firearms courses are based on the CSAT methodology and, as such, the principles are conducive to both on (live fire) and off (dry fire) range practice sessions.  Like all Academy programs, the “next step” firearms program is both cost and time effective. It requires, however, an investment of effort and attention on the part of the students. 

Qualified students will possess a valid Illinois FOID and an Illinois CCW, or another state’s equivalent, or be Academy students screened through our in-house process.  All Academy students, firearms students included, must possess a positive can-do attitude and be dedicated to improvement.

For more information or to apply for training to the Academy, please contact us at either (630) 836-3600 or Visit Our Website.